Climate change and food insecurity multiplying risks of conflict and civil unrest in 32 countries
A combination of climate change vulnerability and food insecurity is amplifying the risks of conflict and civil unrest in 32 countries, including the emerging markets of Bangladesh, Ethiopia, India, Nigeria and the Philippines, according to the seventh annual Climate Change and Environmental Risk Atlas (CCERA) released by global risk analytics company Maplecroft.
The Atlas, which provides comparable risk data for 198 countries across 26 separate issues, including climate change vulnerability and food security, echoes the findings of recent reports released by the Pentagon that identified climate change as a ‘threat multiplier,’ which escalates the risk of conflicts and unrest.
Bangladesh, Nigeria, India, Myanmar, Philippines among most vulnerable to climate change
Maplecroft identifies 32 ’extreme risk’ countries in its Climate Change Vulnerability Index (CCVI), which evaluates the sensitivity of populations, the physical exposure of countries, and governmental capacity to adapt to climate change over the next 30 years. Bangladesh (1st and most at risk), Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Nigeria, Chad, Haiti, Ethiopia, Philippines, Central African Republic and Eritrea are the ten countries facing the highest levels of risk, while the growth economies of Cambodia (12), India (13), Myanmar (19), Pakistan (24) and Mozambique (27) also feature in the ‘extreme risk’ category.
One of the unifying characteristics of these economies identified by the CCERA is that they depend heavily on agriculture, with 65% of their combined working population employed in the sector, while 28% of their overall economic output relies on agricultural revenues. Maplecroft states that changing weather patterns are already impacting food production, poverty, migration and social stability – factors that significantly increase the risk of conflicts and instability in fragile and emerging states alike.
UN IPCC figures estimate declines of up to 50% for staples such as rice, wheat and maize in some locations over the next 35 years due to the impacts of climate change. This scenario is particularly significant for the 32 most vulnerable countries in the CCVI. Eleven of these are also classified at ‘extreme risk’ Maplecroft’s Food Security Risk Index, including: South Sudan, Chad, Ethiopia, Central African Republic, Eritrea, DR Congo, Sudan, Burundi and Afghanistan – countries where high levels of poverty, displacement, political violence and conflict already exist. Food security in the remaining 21 is rated ‘high risk,’ however, given the likely increase in extreme weather events such as drought, it is a situation Maplecroft says could worsen
Conflation of risks impact economic growth, business continuity and military capabilities
According to Maplecroft, the conflation and worsening of these risks in a country have the potential to destabilise regional security, hurt national economies and impact the operations and supply chains of business. In addition, military resources, which have traditionally focused on security based missions, are increasingly being drawn into disaster relief efforts. Subsequent outcomes also include increased poverty and migration and reduced levels of education, which in turn can lead to disenfranchisement and drive support for radical groups.
Nigeria, ranked 4th most at risk in the CCVI, is cited as a prime example of a country where this has occurred. Widespread drought and food insecurity helped create the socio-economic conditions that led to the emergence of Boko Haram and the violent insurgency in the North East of the country. Food insecurity and food price volatility have also been identified as triggers to the Arab Spring – particularly in Egypt and the current Syrian conflict. With one in four people still undernourished in sub-Saharan Africa, climate change impacts make it even more difficult for governments across the region to improve food security and help reduce tensions.
“Unlike policy makers who often ignore or politicise the science in seeking short-term objectives, global business and the military now view climate change as an important risk management imperative,” states Dr James Allan, Head of Environment at Maplecroft. “Identifying future flashpoints will help proactive organisations and governments make strategic decisions.”
Adaptation holds key to mitigating risks but substantial investment still required
An improved understanding of the science and consequences of climate change highlighted by the recent IPCC Fifth Assessment Report offers hope that adaptation strategies can be developed to avoid the worst impacts. These include drought resistant crops, more resilient infrastructure, economic diversification and poverty reduction.
The benefits of programmes such as these are already being felt across India, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Bangladesh and the Philippines, all of which have improved in Maplecroft’s Adaptive Capacity Index in recent years.
However, in 2010 global leaders promised US$100 billion annually by 2020 to help developing countries adapt to climate impacts, yet only a fraction has been delivered. How well countries that are extreme and high risk on Maplecroft’s CCVI deal with climate impacts and their subsequent outcomes will largely be determined by the amount of financial and technical support they receive.
Maplecroft’s Climate Change and Environmental Risk Atlas 2015 (CCERA) features 26 risk indices to provide comprehensive quantitative analysis of the key risks to business in the areas of climate change, resource security, ecosystem services, emissions and waste, and the regulatory environment. The CCERA helps organisations understanding the risks and opportunities associated with climate change and the environment, placing them in the context of wider legal and regulatory, political, human rights and societal risks. In addition, due to the localised nature of many of the risks assessed in the CCERA, high-resolution sub-national maps are provided to aid in the visualisation and comprehension of risks down to 22km² worldwide.
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